Idara Ekpoh: Beautiful in Every Shade Stories

I am Nigerian-American. My parents came to America in 1992 and had me in 1994. I always felt that being Nigerian in America has put me in situations where I’ve always had to explain who I am. When people first see me, they see a black woman. They usually have a list of stereotypes that come with being a black woman in America. Then when go further in detail and tell them I’m Nigerian, there’s a different list of stereotypes that go with being African. It was always easier to say that I was just “Black” and only have to deal with that list of stereotypes. I could easily relate  to other black people, but once the subject of African came up, it was harder. I, all of a sudden, have people being ignorant to my culture or making jokes about the lifestyle we have as Africans. People would make fun of the traditional clothing I would wear or the “exotic” foods I would eat. It was difficult for me to accept my culture and be open about who I am. It always felt like its one thing to be black in America, but a completely different thing to be African. The only other Africans I had around me were my family. Coming to the University of Arizona has put me in a group of people who accept who I am as African, and I’ve met other Africans who faced the same struggle growing up. I am Nigerian-American and I love my culture and where I am from. Its what make me who I am. 

Idara with our first Beautiful in Every Shade Story's Chisom at the University of Arizon's Open Shoot. To read Chisom's story, click here.  

Idara with our first Beautiful in Every Shade Story's Chisom at the University of Arizon's Open Shoot. To read Chisom's story, click here.  

Beautiful, powerful moment.

After each BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE empowerment workshop on a college campus, we create space for community dialogue to reflect on the shared experience and to offer up lessons learned as a result of being invited into our unique approach of exploring and affirming self identity.
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50 SHADES OF BLACK™ is a signature project of BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE™: a grassroots empowerment movement affirming and celebrating the beauty found in every human being.  http://www.beautifulineveryshade.com 

MTV "True Life": Kiara Representing Beautiful in Every Shade™

MTV’s “True Life: I Have A Trans Parent”, follows two young people grappling with their parents’ transitions. Kiara, one of people featured on the show, ROCKED a BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE™ shirt throughout a recent episode.

We appreciated the support and your embodiment of the message. 

Kara is 23-year-old women living with her husband and son in Georgia who speaks openly about adjusting to her father's transition. She expresses her heart's desire to support and stand by her parent.  

When asked what advice she had for someone who’s having a hard time dealing with their parent’s transition, she said "Have patience and be openminded. It's important to remember that, in a way, you're going through a transition as well, and viewing your parent as a different gender doesn't happen over night."

At 0:46 and 2:01 of this short "True Life: I Have A Trans Parent" Sneak Peek, you can also find Kiara repping Beautiful in Every Shade™. 

To see an update about Kiara and her relationship with her father, view MTV's check-in interview with Kiara

video, beautiful stories

BEAUTIFUL Stories: Art, Disability, Beauty with Glenneisha Dawkins

Glenneisha Darkins: Dismantling Perceptions of Disability & Broadening Perceptions of Beauty | Photo and Video by Breonca Trofort

Glenneisha Darkins: Dismantling Perceptions of Disability & Broadening Perceptions of Beauty | Photo and Video by Breonca Trofort

When asked to write a reflection on this experience I laughed, knowing the challenge it would be to find specific words, worthy enough of expressing my experience. I walked into Glenny's room nervous, like a child starting school for the first time.  That nervousness was soon transformed into inspiration.

It was such an honor and privilege to document Glenny, as she created a masterpiece in front of my lens. How could I have gotten so lucky? I've been on multiple film and movie sets but I've never met a painter comparable to a director. Her precision of where to move the canvas, whether to shift or tilt it, how much paint to mix to get the exact color she wanted, was like watching a director coordinate every crew member on set. Her attention to detail with every brush stroke, was like watching a violinist draw their bow across each string for the perfect sound. Her momentum was like a long distance runner, admirable, where breaks were only taken to clean her brush or mix the paint. I was speechless. 

Her courage, strength, and wisdom is admirable and that experience has fueled me for 2016. I'm beyond blessed that my year began with this project! 

-Breonca
BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE™ Lead Artist
B. Alyssa Trofort Photography


"That’s one thing I like about my life.  It’s raw and real --unscripted and imperfect, but it’s also beautiful…because it’s me." -Glenneisha Dawkins

Glenneisha A. Dawkins is the author of FREEDOM CHAIR: An Open Diary of a Quadriplegic
She is a "Student, Striver, and Paints on Occassion"
Instagram: Glen.Neisha
Twitter: whoisglenny

video, open shoot, college

Say Her Name: My name is Chisom

Beautiful, powerful moment.

After each BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE empowerment workshop on a college campus, we create space for community dialogue to reflect on the shared experience and to offer up lessons learned as a result of being invited into our unique approach of exploring and affirming self identity.

Watch as this University of Arizona student takes one of the most important steps in her journey to proclaim her self identity and inspires an entire room of her peers to do the same.  In one minute she reclaims 18 years of her life
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BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE™ is is a grassroots empowerment movement affirming and celebrating the beauty found in every human being.  http://www.beautifulineveryshade.com 

Loiza Skate Camp: Skateboarding for a cause in Puerto Rico

We wanted to offer our talents to the children and young adults in our community as well as learn about their skills. We want to teach them important values and become an example for them. As a goal, we wish to fill the void that many young people have in their hearts. Since we are young adults, like them, we want to use our actions to show them that nothing is impossible and that you only have to be proactive, have a vision, and an interest in what you do.

Have you received support from the community?
We have had some support but not a lot because only a few offer to help. Everything we have built has come out of our pockets. We are few but we are grateful to those parents and members of the community that have helped us and have been there through the process.

How do you feel when you see the kids enjoying themselves at camp?
I feel great! Especially when they don't want to leave jajaja It fills me with joy because I see how the little we teach them makes them wiser. This year we were only able to offer the summer camp for a week due to lack of funds. The last day I saw one of the girls crying because she wanted to continue for another week, it broke my heart. That moment taught me a lot because sometimes I think "What am I doing this for?" But then I see the kid's faces filled with joy, excitement, and a desire to learn and that gives me the strength to fight for our cause.

Tell us a bit about your family.
I thank God for my family. I thank my family for always being there, ;in the good and bad times; teaching me right from wrong, and setting a great example. Thanks to them I have been able to fight for what I want, and set being my best self as a goal. Both of my parents went to public schools, I am from a marginalized town, and thanks to them I have learned to overcome obstacles and not let anything stop me. I am thankful for all of the blessings God has given those people that have taught me so much.

Questions asked to the Younger Brother Jabes
How do you feel when teaching the kids how to skate?
It feels great, seeing how they first arrive here not even knowing how to balance themselves on a skateboard, and then in the blink of an eye they're up on a U ramp on their own. But more than anything it's great to see how much fun they have as they learn.

What do you admire about your brother?
Ever since he was a kid, he was always very confident and sure about the things he did. Thanks to him everything we've done has been seen. Ever since we created the Boneless Crew he told us to fight for Loiza's youth who have a lot of talent. He told us that we are all good, that we beed to show what we're made of while rescuing our traditions.

Do you feel that the skate camp has made a difference in the community?
Yes, the camp not only keeps kids off the streets, but helps them develop both physically and mentally.

Reporting live from Loiza
Arianna Cuesta

Photos by Arianna Cuesta

OM

Photos by Carlton Mackey

Photos by Carlton Mackey

‘Om’

By: Khatdija Meghjani

My mother used to tell me that the universe, at its inception, reverberated the sound ‘Om’. She used to tell me that this harmonizing utterance is the universal frequency where all the souls on earth meet. I think about this a lot. I imagine a physical location in some corner of the expansive cosmos where the dreams, yearnings, pain, and pleasures of all souls come together. Perhaps they discuss things with each other. Maybe they plan the meetings we think of as spontaneous. Maybe this is where soul mates meet.

‘Om’ is intimately related to Dhramic cultures and practices. It serves as a symbol of the interconnectedness of God. It serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of people. My graceful and unreservedly enchanting mother used to teach my sister and I of these things so closely inculcated into our Indian heritage. When my family migrated from India to the land of dreams, it became even more important to her that we remember our roots. I recall summer breaks spent reading the Mahabharata, an epic narrative of the lives and fates of Princes in the great Kurukshetra War. A text equated in its contribution to world heritage as the Bible, Quran, works of Shakespeare, and those of Homer. I, unknowingly, began to lead parallel lives. One of Western principles of punctuality, discipline, hard work and the other of Eastern values of compassion, honor, family. These kindred lives found their meeting point when I began to dance.

In an attempt to mimic my mother’s grace and my father’s gumption, my sister and I began taking lessons in Bharata-Natyam in a small studio in Atlanta. This ancient classical dance founded in the temples of Tamil Nadu, India became the outlet through which I found my ‘Om’. The Ghungroos worn on my ankles became my rosary beads. The floor upon which I practiced for countless painful hours became my temple. My stage became the physical space where the souls of an audience met mine for however brief a moment in time. I found the strings with which to weave together my two lives. My learned guru, Dina Sheth, cultivated within me the ability to do so. The invaluable lessons of integrity, movement, gratitude, tolerance and respect find their origin in the seven years of my training in Bharata-Natyam. My soul found its home in dance.

I identify as an Eastern and Indian woman because the strongest and most passionate women in my life have been my mother, my sister, my guru, fellow dancers, and countless soul sisters. I am who I am because I was privileged enough, perhaps lucky enough, to have found a teacher in all of these women. I am forever indebted to them for showing me how to live a life in harmony with the inevitable principles and values I will learn from my lived experiences. These women continue to teach me today. The closest I will ever come to finding a way to show them my immense gratitude is by performing in their presence and in their honor.

And so I dance on, I travel on, I move on, I grow and I become. My rhythm is my beating heart and that of the souls that came before me and all the souls that will follow.

Finding Beautiful in Every Soul.

Om. Om. Om.